Lawmaker: Knesset will consult with Diaspora on conversions


JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli lawmaker told a delegation of American Jewish leaders that he would consult with Diaspora Jewry on issues involving conversion.

David Rotem, the author of a bill that will allow local rabbis in Israel to perform conversions to Judaism, made his comments Monday during a meeting in the Knesset with Diaspora Jewish leaders led by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Jewish Federations of North America Senior Vice President Rebecca Caspi.

Overseas Jewry is concerned about a provision in the conversion bill which says that a convert to Judaism who visited Israel before converting either in Israel or overseas would be prohibited from becoming an Israeli citizen under the Law of Return.

The Jewish Federations of North America has issued a statement strongly rejecting the proposal and has written directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the subject.

Explaining that no law will be passed before the Knesset’s Passover break, Rotem assured the group that no future bill would affect the status of conversions outside of Israel. Rotem, of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, also stressed that Netanyahu is aware of the importance of these issues for Jews around the world.

"From my conversations with the prime minister and the government secretary, it is clear that the law that is viewed as problematic by Jews in the Diaspora will not be passed during the current Knesset session which goes into recess on March 21," Sharansky said. "We have received assurances that we will be consulted in this process, so that the views of world Jewry are taken into consideration."

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